Kate Atkinson’s fourth book in the Jackson Brodie series, Started Early, Took My Dog is another intriguing crime mystery novel that illustrates just how wonderful her characterisations and plotting are. What I appreciate Kate for is that while Jackson Brodie is the series protagonist, she will place other characters at the heart of a new plot. This gives us a fascinating character Jackson Brodie, who we watch negotiate the disorder and struggle with life as he travels through the series. In addition, new characters come into focus that bring a unique blend of personality and background to a specific novel. The strategy is brilliant!
Ex-police officer, current security officer, Tracy Waterhouse, steps into a scene at the Merrion Shopping Centre in Leeds to rescue a young child, Courtney, from a nasty abusive woman. In a step aimed at helping a child from a dreadful situation she buys the child and opens up issues that her settled life maybe wasn’t ready for. I found this element too far-fetched to accept, but putting it aside, the relationship between Tracy and Courtney is very engaging as it develops. The realisation of just having bought a child and its ramifications bring a completely different life to Tracy and Courtney, especially as Courtney grows in confidence. The dialogue is masterful, drawing on the humour and crazy situation they find themselves in and learning so much about each other.
Witnessing the infraction in the Shopping Centre, is Tilly, a retired actress, an elderly lady experiencing the onset of dementia. She has an episode at the Shopping Centre where her confusion leaves her feeling frightened and unsettled. I had a real soft spot for Tilly and felt for her during her states of confusion, where the public can be either understanding or impatient.
At the same time Jackson engages with Tilly and shortly after rescues a dog from a brutal bully that has the dog cowering after being beaten. Ex-cop, current PI, Jackson is now working for a New Zealander to help her find her estranged mother.
Three threads that weave imperceptibly through each other at different energies and timings. This is something Kate does really well as each POV comes into focus the others are not entirely dropped. That little touch of connection keeps everything alive and spinning.
The characters in a Kate Atkinson novel and the clever way she brings about their connection with each other are just wonderful. She is a very talented writer but there is something that holds me back giving 5 stars to her books and I think it’s because there’s always a bit too much coincidence and some steps of believability that don’t sit well with me.
I would recommend reading this book and I’d like to thank Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Black Swan and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.